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Drought sinks water levels at Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner to all-time low

The Oklahoma City utilities trust is exploring a water release from Canton Lake to restore levels at Lake Hefner, and grounded boaters are exploring new hobbies.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: January 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm •  Published: January 9, 2013

Persistent drought has sunk the Lake Hefner water level to the lowest in its 66-year history, leaving boats and docks high and dry.

At 1,182 feet above sea level, the water level at Lake Hefner is 17 feet below the reservoir's maximum capacity and two feet lower than the previous record set in October, said Debbie Ragan, utilities spokeswoman for Oklahoma City.

“We've been watching the situation since last year's drought and looking at things we can do,” Ragan said. “It's been since the 1950s that we've had a drought that lasted for several years and you know we may be in for another.”

Hefner, a primary source of drinking water, is usually at its lowest during the hottest months, Ragan said. A lack of rain and snow last fall and this winter meant the lake was never replenished.

Ragan said the city's water trust is taking a hard look at conservation measures, ranging from public education and tips to mandatory restrictions. The city is considering drawing as much as 30,000 acre-feet of water from Canton Lake, north of Watonga, she said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns Canton Lake, but the city owns rights on all the water stored there, Ragan said.

Water drawn from Canton would be used for drinking water purposes only, Ragan said, and not to allay the frustrations of boaters and other recreational users of Lake Hefner.

Oklahoma City residents draw an average of 110 million gallons a day of water from Hefner, and almost twice that amount during the summer months.

Other reservoirs

The city also stores water at Lake Overholser, which, like Hefner, is fed by the North Canadian River, and at Lake Stanley Draper, which is fed by Lake Atoka in the southeast part of the state.

The city also owns water rights to McGee Creek, near Atoka.

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